Greetings from Atyrau, Kazakhstan!
Left from the hotel around noon (not a good time to start because starts to be really hot at that time of a day) and went to a bank to change some of my Russian Rubles to Kazakhstan Tengs.
At the outskirts of the town I filled gas tank because I saw that they had 95-octane fuel there (seems like further east I am going, lower the octane in the fuel gets).
While I was filling tank, one guy approached me. Unfortunately I did not understand what he said, only, that he wanted to take a photo of me and my bike. Thing what cought my eye was his teeth. Whole upper side of his chewing equipment was made from gold!
Russian border came really fast, only around 30km away.
Between Astrakhan and border I had to cross one river via pontoon bridge. Was quite interesting experience because bridge was moving up, down and sideways when I crossed it.
This border crossing was really fast, because there was only passport check (checked also bike papers, but that was all). Then I was waved to continue.
Kazakhstan border came after I crossed border river.
Had to fill one really short arrival document (just basically name and passport number), then a bit waiting and finally passport and bike paper check. Whole process took around 20 minutes (including waiting time). No customs check or anything else.
This border crossing was super easy!
Few kilometers after border crossing was police checkpoint. I was asked to stop there by a young police who waved red stick to me.
I asked him if he wants to see documents, but was surprised when he just folded passenger footpegs and wanted to have short ride 🙂
I gave him few hundred meter long ride while he was imitating famous act from movie Titanic.
Guy was standing on the footpegs, spread his arms and screamed like a baby from a joy 🙂
While coming back his colleague filmed everything…
I got a nice pat to my back from the police and got going again.
Never know what happens in these police checkpoints 🙂 🙂 🙂
Roads were paved all day, but surface was in quite bad shape. Lot of holes and really really deep grooves. Some points I already thought that my footpegs will touch pavement because grooves were so deep. Hot temperatures and heavy truck traffic will kill roads fast.
80km/h was maximum speed I had because of the road condition. Anything faster will just bring all these problems in front of you faster. Going faster do not add so much distance, but can create lot of problems, because you might not be able to slow down fast enough to avoid one of these hazards.
Quite soon after I crossed border, I started to see camels. Also many horses and cows were next to the road.
All these hazards require 110% focus. It is better to stop to check map, because 100% sure I will hit a pothole if I try to read map or enjoy the scenery.
Slowly landscape changed to dryier, flatter real desert looking, saw also first small sand dunes.
Temperature was 40C and over, so I forced myself to stop every 30 minutes to have a drink. Even water (which I carried) was warm, I still forced it down. Good way to check dehydration is to pinch your skin and check if skin returns to normal immediately. If not, then you are dehydrated (I did not had that problem).
Sun started to get down and I was planning to find camping spot. During one of my breaks I got a call from a friend who said that there is quite venomous spiders living underground (. So better to ask from the locals if it´s safe to camp.
To calm down my friend´s nerves I promised to check if I can find accomodation (preferrably cheap) from the next village, if not, then I would do camping.
Before the village I saw roadside cafe and noticed another building next to it which had several aircon-machines. I thought that it looks a bit like motel, so turned back to and asked from cafe if they have rooms.
I was only customer and room price was decent 10€. They had shared bathroom, but no toilet! I asked about toilet and they just waved hand around, I understood that toilet is all around…
Slept well and woke up around nine on Wednesday morning. Without breakfast I continued towards Atyrau, which was only a bit over 100km away.
Road got slightly better, so I reached Atyrau quite fast.
Went to TGI Fridays for breakfast (because they have also free internet) and searched hotel from the town. Not a cheap accomodation available in this town, so just picked cheapest one for one night.
I needed to do registration in the immigration office (because I used land border and will stay in the country more than 5 days).
Finding a immigration office was quite a task. I visited several locations and was guided from one place to another, non of them were correct). Finally I got a good map from one guard who had tight black leather gloves and AK-47 on his chest 🙂 Really helpful guy!
In immigration office I got help from one of the guards who spoke really good english. He also filled one form for me because I did not had any idea what they wanted in that document. After handing over my passport (to get second stamp) I needed to wait around 15 minutes in a room which did not have aircondition. I left quite a big lake of sweat to the floor…
GPS coordinates to the immigration office are: N47º 05.603´ E51º 55.270´
In immigration office I also met Nicholas, french motorcycle rider who I met in Baku hostel (who told me the address of the hostel)! This was really unreal!
He had crossed Caspian sea by ferry and had lot of problems in the desert. His rear tire was totally destroyed, rear shock had spilled all oils out and his radiator had leak, so he will be stuck over here for some time…
I also need to find a company who sells 3rd party insurances for motorcycle. Just to be on a safe side, it´s better to have one of these, even hotel reseption said green card is enough (my greencard does not list Kazakhstan as a country where it is valid).
First impressions from Kazakhstan are: Hot, dry, no trees, desert and nice people.
I will stay here until Sunday morning (you will know later why I stayed here so long :)) and try to get all things done before I head deeper to this country.